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Toronto When it Sizzles

Behind the scenes at the Toronto Film Festival -- Sex, politics, and Ray Charles stole the show at this year's Oscar-baiting gala

Let's go sexin'! So went the catchphrase of Johnny Knoxville's sexaholic hero in John Waters' naughty comedy A Dirty Shame. But it also summed up the overarching vibe of the 29th Toronto International Film Festival.

Along with the usual combination of star-trampled red carpets, studio bidding wars, and junket-packed hotels, this year's Canadian confab featured quite the randy bonus. From the frank biopic Kinsey to Johnny Depp's orgy-filled The Libertine to a batch of foreign entries (Anatomy of Hell, Ma Mère, and A Hole in My Heart) that featured disturbingly explicit scenes, many of this year's films, which screened from Sept. 9 to 18, had sex on the brain. ''It always surprises me how endlessly fascinated we are with the subject,'' said Claire Danes, star of the often bawdy period piece Stage Beauty. ''Go to any museum; it's full of naked people!''

With her back-to-back premieres of Kinsey and the torrid intergenerational romance P.S., Laura Linney christened herself ''the lady of sex of Toronto.'' Her 26-year-old P.S. costar, Topher Grace, felt the repercussions firsthand. ''Last night I went to this party and a bunch of older women hit on me,'' he said. ''So it's working.''

For Kinsey director Bill Condon, the attention was stressful enough to require medication. ''I've just taken a stage-fright pill called Inderal that my producer got for me,'' he admitted before his gala screening. ''I'm absolutely terrified.'' In the case of new mother Helen Hunt, in town with her 4-month-old daughter, Makena, for the premiere of her Oscar Wilde adaptation A Good Woman, it was all about her breasts -- though not in a sexual way. ''You breast-feed, you run to the premiere, then you run home and breast-feed again,'' she said of her evening's itinerary. ''Then you go to the party a little bit lighter than you were.''

But no one had a crazier red-carpet experience than Orlando Bloom, who was greeted at the screening of his Caribbean crime drama Haven by hundreds of shrieking female teens. ''There's all this pure energy coming at you and you just go, 'Whoa. Everyone calm down,''' he said the next morning. ''But then you see their faces, and they're just little girls. I heard that two girls fainted. I have great fans.''

As always, Toronto's multinational mishmash of celebs and media made for some interesting moments. ''Robin! Robin!'' one paparazzo shouted at Zooey Deschanel when she arrived with boyfriend Jason Schwartzman at the I Heart Huckabees premiere, apparently mistaking her for look-alike Robin Tunney. Nick Nolte, who appeared in the custody drama Clean and wartime tale Hotel Rwanda, literally went missing for a day, skipping his Rwanda press conference and his EW interview (he eventually reappeared).

Nolte's Rwanda costar Don Cheadle, meanwhile, had trouble keeping one interviewer on the subject of the serious film: ''She asked me, 'You know how sometimes they turn TV shows into movies?' I was like, 'Yeah, what the hell are you saying?' 'Like if they did a Picket Fences movie, would you do a Picket Fences movie?' I turned around and looked at the Hotel Rwanda poster behind me and then looked at her. I was like, 'Did they tell you what you were here for when you came?'''

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